UK Scientists Sent Worms to the ISS for Muscle Decline Research

A Cargo Dragon 2 was used to carry the experiment containers. 1 photo
Photo: SpaceX
After baby squids and even fungi, it’s time for worms to take a trip to space. They’re doing us a favor, by helping scientists study muscle changes during spaceflight. That’s one of the amazing things about space – it’s not just a fascinating thing to study in itself, but an exceptional environment for performing biological and medical research that can help improve our health here, on Earth.
The connection between human muscle health and plain, old worms might not be obvious, but it’s an important one, according to scientists. We have much more in common with worms, biologically speaking, than we would like to think, and the important thing here is that they can also be affected by certain factors in space, which can lead to muscle alterations. This is why these tiny creatures can be of great help in not only researching the causes of muscle loss during spaceflight, but also in trying to develop possible therapies for that.

A research team led by scientists from Nottingham and Exeter University is conducting an experiment based on sending worms into space, in a project that’s funded by the UK Space Agency. C. elegans worms were flown to the International Space Station (ISS), where they will be staying for almost a week.

At the end of last week, the SpX-22, a Commercial Resupply Service mission contracted by NASA and flown by SpaceX, has launched the worms into space, with the help of a Cargo Dragon 2. The precious cargo is so small that it fit into 24 containers no larger than matchboxes, developed by the Oxfordshire-based company Kayser Space. Each of them contained 3 culture bags where the little guys were placed. Once they arrived on board of ISS, the worms were transferred into an incubator in ISS’s Columbus science laboratory.

Through this study, scientists hope to find solutions not only for preventing astronauts’ health conditions, but also for fighting against muscular dystrophies in general and helping people live longer. The experiment is the first of 3 research projects that are currently funded by the UK Space Agency.
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About the author: Otilia Drăgan
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Otilia believes that if it’s eco, green, or groundbreaking, people should know about it (especially if it's got wheels or wings). Working in online media for over five years, she's gained a deeper perspective on how people everywhere can inspire each other.
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